Our top five games of the year.
Hundreds of brand new games release every year. But among all of those a few will stand out as presenting something unique that elevates them above the rest. These are the games that change the way we think about their series or genre. These are the games that push us into the future with bold game design used in new and interesting ways. These are our top five best new games of 2022.
5. Pokémon Legends Arceus - John Rairdin
We’ll likely look back on 2022 as a year that changed Pokémon forever. Between Pokémon Legends Arceus and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, the series has taken bold steps into the future. It was immediately clear that one of these massive RPGs would need to be included on this list (with the other picking up an honorable mention). At the end of the day, it was technical stability that made the final call. Pokémon Legends Arceus places a focus on the simple act of catching Pokémon. For the first time in series history, you can catch Pokémon right on the overworld map simply by sneaking up on them and throwing a poké ball. It is the first time that the world of Pokémon has felt truly alive and is free of the shackles brought forward all the way from the original games. In many ways Arceus feels like what you imagined the Game Boy games to be back in 1998. Its open, though admittedly segmented, world would also pave the way for Scarlet and Violet later in the year. While we fully expect future games to push the ideas behind Arceus out even further, blend them with truly open-world of Scarlet and Violet, and hopefully improve on the technology behind the series, Arceus will forever be the game that knocked the doors down and changed what a Pokémon game could be forever.
4. Neon White - Neal Ronaghan
Neon White isn’t the easiest game to explain, but maybe the simplest way to showcase how this game wound up on our top 5 list for 2022 is that it’s a game that makes speedrunning fun and approachable for virtually anyone who picks up the controller. This stylish game that is self-proclaimed as being “for freaks” is a first-person parkour game where your goal is to complete deviously designed levels as quickly as possible, with each level lasting less than a minute (ideally). The novel twists on top of that basic premise helps to make it more compelling, like the smart card-based combat and movement mechanics where you have a small hand of cards that represent weapons you can use to kill enemies. You can also discard a card to gain a maneuvering boost, whether it’s a double jump or a stomp. Maybe the only place where Neon White stumbles is its story, but even in that case, the social link system tied to other characters opens up both mildly interesting lore and, more importantly, side content that offers even more twists on the foundational brilliance. Toss well-implemented online leaderboards and an earworm soundtrack into the fray and you have a game you can lose hours in.
3. Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope - Jordan Rudek
It isn't always a sure thing that adding Mario to a particular type of game or combining his universe with that of a completely different one will yield positive results, but Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle made believers of many. And it also introduced the early adopting Switch audience to the sometimes esoteric tactics genre. Its sequel, Sparks of Hope, improves on the original in almost every way, and it makes small but clever gameplay tweaks that constantly impress. From adjustable skill trees to more free-form movement during combat, there's an incredible variety that enables players of all skill levels to find strategies that work for them, and a host of accessibility options ensure that the challenge is never too thin or too great. Another impressive feature of Sparks of Hope is the emphasis on exploration: each planet you visit changes as you overcome its obstacles, and from both an aesthetic and practical point of view, the experience evolved as you progress. Personally, no character made me laugh more this year than Rabbid Mario, so I'm particularly fond of him and the additional voices added to Sparks of Hope. Overall, 2022 may not have been the banner year for Switch that 2017 was, but there's no denying that the Mario + Rabbids game of this year is a true upgrade and another must-play Nintendo title.
2. Kirby and the Forgotten Land - Alex de Freitas
Over twenty years later, Kirby finally joins his peers in making the proper jump to 3D platforming (Kirby’s Blowout Blast doesn’t count). And despite being decades late to the party, Kirby and the Forgotten Land sticks the landing. Not only does the Kirby formula translate to 3D seamlessly, it also gains so much in the transition. The titular Forgotten Land is more immersive than previous entries with a greater sense of place, exquisitely crafted and presented by a guided camera that brings out the best of each location. Each land is chock full of secrets and brimming with ideas, never stretching a single gameplay mechanic too thin. The copy abilities have been pared back to only a dozen, and what is lost in variety is made up with a focused set of abilities that are all fully utilized by the levels and bosses. And the upgrade paths for these abilities keep them feeling fresh and exciting to come back to. The new mouthful mode transformations are not just undeniably charming, but also change up gameplay in ways traditional copy abilities cannot, whether that’s racing down a track as a car or lighting your path as a giant lightbulb. And while Forgotten Land retains the simplicity and ease that Kirby is known for, there are plenty of optional challenges and secrets to find for the dedicated completionists and a postgame that will truly test your mettle. And all of this is wrapped up in Kirby’s trademark maximum pink aesthetic that will keep you smiling all the way through. Kirby and the Forgotten Land isn’t just a successful experiment in bringing the pink puffball to 3D, its also the best Kirby game yet.
1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 - John Rairdin
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is the most fun it has ever been to play a Xenoblade game. It takes everything that worked about Xenoblade 1, 2, and even a little of X and improves on all of it. The gem crafting of the first game is here, but it’s more accessible and user friendly. The expansive roster of optional party members is here, but it’s based on meaningful quest lines not a gacha mini game. Even the customizable class system of X makes an appearance but is expanded upon and built for your entire party and built more meaningfully into progression. The soundtrack is not just good but is woven into the very lore of this world. The world itself subverts the happily ever after of the prior two games in the trilogy, quietly sowing the seeds of revelation. Its narrative is more focused and refined than Xenoblade has been since the original game. The story told is one of hope in an endlessly tragic world. It gives you six primary party members who are with you through the whole adventure and who you’ll connect with individually. When the credits finally roll, you’ll frantically return for any side quests you miss, desperate to spend more time in this world and with these characters. This is one of those games that won’t just be our game of the year in 2022, but will be on every list of must play Switch games for the rest of time. In ten years, we’ll be begging for a remaster, simply for an excuse to revisit this world one more time. Xenoblade 3 is our game of the year in 2022, one of the greatest Switch games, and one of the greatest RPGs of all time.
- Pokémon Scarlet and Violet
- TMNT Shredder's Revenge
- Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes
- Triangle Strategy
To be considered a new game for this list, the original release of the game on any platform must have occurred in 2022.